Sunday, August 30, 2009


A few months ago, I encountered a bookstore during a trip to Maryland called, "Friends of the Library." The store's purpose was to resell books that were no longer in use at the libraries in the area, and to buy and sell used and unused books. The fun about used bookstores, is that you never know what you're going to get, its always a surprise. One, may perhaps come across the insane scribblings of a mad man in their novel, the first edition of a glorious tale, missing pages of your favorite book, or a book that's gone out of print and you can't find anywhere else, the list goes on. However, on this particular trip, I came across a book by Betsy Lerner, called, "The Forest for the Trees." The instructional book is "an editors advice to writers." I deemed it an interesting read, considering that I'm going to publish soon. (Crosses fingers here.) Even though I recommended the book months back when i bought it, on this very blog, I never finished it. It wasn't until grabbing it before getting on the subway for work this summer, for lack of a new read, that i started it again. In the book i came across three old receipts from 2003. Every used book has a tale....

She and I are more alike than she will ever know. On March 11, 2003, she visits three stores, Barnes and Noble, New York and Company, and Rite Aid. Her receipts adorned with everything, from a book on writing to Neutrogena speaks of her self consciousness. She is obsessed with what the world will think of her, her writing, and her face. New York and Company: Knit Skirts, Jewelry. $69.49. Plus Tax. $72.97. I imagine her sitting on the metro, riding to each store. If she was driving, I don't imagine her having the time to place her receipts here. While twiddling her thumbs against the crisp pages of her new book, in her mind, she pieces the outfit she just bought onto her body for the interview. Tomorrow is the big day. Barnes and Noble: Writing Advice, Short Stories, Journal. $37.99. Plus Tax. $38.99. She is a writer, most definitely. A journal for her sorrows, advice for her insecurities, and the short stories for a prime example of what her work should look like. She wonders, "Why can't i just write like me?" Surveying the passengers of the train car, she believes they are all watching her when she looks away, she answers her own question, "Because their all listening, it must be perfect." She's made it all the way to Arlington, Virginia. This must be home. Pharmacies we stop by are always close to home. Rite Aid: Makeup Sponge, Face Products, Shampoo. $42.07. Plus Tax. $43.62. The face tells it all, it speaks character, prestige, and honesty. Her face must be trustworthy. A lovable face for the biography photo on the back fold of her book, if she gets that far.

Tomorrow will be thrust into her face, and she'll be ready. Lerner's advice ringing in her ears, dressed to impress, hair glowing with a face to match, the smell of coffee in the air, as the editor presses his eyes to the only baby she's ever cradled. Like small children, parents understand what the critics mean by, "Her dress is so pretty." It's the same as telling the author, "Your grammar is good." Where's the commentary about the content? It's the editor or passersby way of not telling you that your baby is ugly. This is the feedback that the literary opponent fears. The battle between staying in the journal or falling into the hands of the judgemental. But, this writer knows her final wage of war. She is ready to take on the blows, her artillery evidence strapped within the back of this book she once read. I wonder if I've ever held her finished product within the last four years. I wonder if she is plagued by the same quest for love and obsession of journals to fill with the woes of that quest. I am curious what pushed her to sell this book. Was it the yearning to pass great knowledge unto another writer? Or was it the getting rid of a reminder of her failure? This is what i know: A woman walked into a bookstore, a pharmacy, and a clothing store. These are the facts. Whether or not her dream was fulfilled, I might never know. However, the fact that i found solace within the places she visited, and the commonality we share, is more than enough. She is the insecure yet confident, smug yet humble, writer yet amateur woman we are all at one point and time in our literary lives. And that's reason enough to thank her for giving me another reason to write. Another reason to write: Priceless. No Tax Here.

"That is part of a power of a book: it is an unspoken invitation into someone else's world, someone else's psyche."

-Betsy Lerner, The Forest for the Trees"



Anonymous said...

I'll have to check this book out.

Majik1987 said...

So, I meant to comment on this last night, but I fell asleep after I had read. (Not an a come at your blog) Anyway, it's so funny that you of all people would be the one to pick up that used book. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways and if anything this is truly a testament to that. I can't believe she wanted to be an author and had the clothing and makeup that scream APB. Lol. How ironic. Or maybe it was purposed for that book to find you. Maybe that will be you one day. Inadvertently passing on wisdom and encouragement to a writer in the coming generation. That's a good look. But hey, the Big Guy up there doesn't do anything by accident. I'll tell you said thanks.

DdotRENEE said...

I just love it!!!!